I teach Chinese martial arts, acupuncture, chi kung and Taoist meditation, which are all, based on the flow of chi along the acupuncture meridians.
So why in western anatomy are the meridians not mentioned ?
The acupuncture meridians and the chi energy that runs through them exist, this has been proved many times using a variety of western scientific instrumentation. It is even possible to buy a very cheap battery operated acupuncture point locator which goes beep and a small light comes on when its on an acupuncture point. So clearly the chi energy, the acupuncture points and the meridians exist and are not something that one could choose to believe in or not. So why are they not taught in western anatomy classes ?
An acupuncture point locator
This anomaly has always surprised me and it is not the only one. There are many examples in many areas of western education where things have been left out. In fact it is fair to say that in the areas of science, history, archeology and anthropology to name only a few many important things are not taught. These missing bits of our human history are often called anomalies and then ignored. I have always taken an interest in these anomalies, particularly ones connected with China. The most important thing is to remember the lesson of the Black Swan.
The Black Swan
Up until their discovery in Western Australia 300 years ago it was thought that all swans where white, there was even an expression in common use, if something was completely impossible it was known as a black swan. Then when one was brought to London of course everybody had to realize that they should be more open minded and be prepared to consider possibilities that may be out of their own area of knowledge and experience.
I think modern western civilization is a bright beacon of light in a sometimes dark world but few people realize that we owe a lot of our achievements to the ancient Chinese. Many things we assume we created where invented by the Chinese:
Paper in 200 BC.
Paper money in 8th century AD.
Umbrellas in 4th century AD.
The wheel barrow in 1st century BC.
Acupuncture 1500 BC.
Latitude and longitude and that the earth is a sphere 2 thousand years ago.
The first law of motion discovered by the Chinese 3rd century BC.
The stirrup in 3rd century (which obviously revolutionized mounted warfare).
Matches in 577 AD it was another 1000 years before this invention reached Europe.
Circulation of the blood in detail in 200 BC, 1700 years before the Europeans.
Chess in the 4th century BC, the black and white squares are yin and yang, the black and white pieces are yin and yang.
Accurate astronomy 2400 BC.
Inoculation against smallpox created by Taoists in 10th century on Ermie mountain, the treatment later spread to the west 700 years later.
Decimal numbering system since 14 century BC.
Zero invented by the Chinese 2300 years ago as well as negative numbers.
The compass 4th century BC.
High quality iron weapons made in blast furnaces from at least the 4th century BC.
Steel and wrought iron weapons by 2nd century BC. Steel was only produced in the west 150 years ago, after the method was explained to them by the Chinese.
One of the oldest and most interesting things discovered in China are bone flutes that are 9,000 years old.
The 9,000 year old Chinese bone flutes are from excavations at Jiahu in Henan province. They are made from the wing bones of the red crowned crane. There are older flutes in the world but these are special because they can still be played.
Here is an audio recording of one of the flutes being played
I find this music beautiful and haunting, it is a connection to our own ancient ancestors in another land in another time. Tonal analysis of the flutes revealed that the scale is remarkably similar to the modern Western Solfege note scale system. So modern human intelligence as expressed through our musical culture is more ancient than we have been led to believe. Ancient man was not inarticulate and running around like a wild beast but was crafting technically complex musical instruments and playing beautiful music.
This is a picture of the worlds oldest, so far discovered, bone flutes maybe there are even older ones yet to be unearthed? These bone flute are carved from griffon vulture wing bones and mammoth ivory they are from Hohle Fels cave in southern Germany. They have been carbon dated, they are 40,000 years old.
World history is not neat and tidy, there are anomalies, which make us, have to reconsider our history. In 1991 a body emerged from the melting glacial ice in the mountains of Austria in the Otzal region. This 35 year old man is now known as Otzi the Iceman, he had well preserved clothing, tools, weapons including a copper axe and other devices with him. He died 5,300 years ago.
What makes him so very interesting is that he is in the heart of Europe but has tattoos marking well known acupuncture points used in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the lower back. X-rays and CT scans of his lumbar spine show that he was suffering from this exact condition.
The tattoos close to the spine correspond with primary points used for treatment, the ankles points correspond to distant points of treatment for the same conditions as the primary points. Acupuncture was assumed to have been created in China approximately 3,500 years ago. It becomes even more intriguing because he also has the trigrams of the I Ching Book of Changes tattooed on his body. This Chinese book was first written down 3,000 years ago just as the Zhou dynasty overthrew the Shang dynasty, who they may have got the book from. So how can it be found in Europe over two thousand years earlier than this date ?
In acupuncture there are eight points known as the Eight Trigram Points, each one is assigned a different trigram. Otzi the Iceman has trigrams tattooed on top of his acupuncture points.
A straight line represents Yang and a broken line Yin. So we have the Yin/Yang concept in central Europe 5,300 years ago. This would seem to predate its known use in mainland China.
On his back is the trigram Kun, meaning Earth. A possible reason to tattoo the acupuncture points on to his body is so that if he was going on a journey and no longer had access to the original acupuncturist the next acupuncturist he saw would see what treatment he had received so far. How do we explain the occurrence of acupuncture, yin/yang and the I Ching in Europe 5,300 years ago, over two thousand years before their presumed existence in China ?
There is no way of knowing however one possible explanation is that, the yin/yang theory, the trigrams and acupuncture where part of a global shamanic system that died out almost everywhere else but was maintained and codified by the ancient Chinese who continued to practice it into the modern era. Today we could say that the martial/medical/spiritual system of Taoism is the inheritor of this body of knowledge. The Spiritual aspects of Taoism are explained in my book A Taoist Way of Life.
There is an equal and opposite anomaly that has recently come to light. Over the last 30 years Chinese archeologists have unearthed more than 100 perfectly preserved bodies in the burial sites scattered between the arid foothills of the Tian Shan (Celestial Mountains) and the fringes of the Taklimakan Desert in northwest China. Some of these bodies are 4,000 years old and so perfectly preserved that their hair and skin and the colors of their clothes are all as if they had just recently passed away. These discoveries are all the more interesting because these people are Caucasian Europeans. Some are wearing long, dark purple woolen garments and felt boots, others are wearing tartan clothes and leather boots. Some have blond hair and amazing blue tattoos of spirals and animals on their limbs. What are Caucasian Europeans doing in China 4,000 years ago ?
This man is over two meters tall (six feet) and perfectly preserved by the dry desert sands.
This woman has been buried with her husband, he is holding a bow, she is wearing a two foot long (one meter), black felt, conical pointed hat with a flat brim. Just like the fairytale description of a witch hat.
In Switzerland 20 years ago a similar conical hat was found except this one was made of gold and is 3,000 years old.
Recent analysis of the markings on the hat reveal that it contains astronomical knowledge that would have permitted the calculation of dates in both lunar and solar calendars, including the summer and winter solstices. This calendar method is known as the Meton cycle after the Greek astronomer Meton, who was not born until 500 years after the hat was made. So clearly European civilization was more advanced than was previously thought.
Western history teaches that the area in the Middle East known as Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) 5,000 years ago is the cradle of civilization. This is where we are told people first left their hunter gatherer lifestyle and began settled communities. We are told that it was here that calendars where first created to track time to know when to plant and harvest their crops. We are also told that because people became fixed in one location it was then possible for them to build temples or large scale spiritual religious stone structures. However this account of the development of human civilization is not what really happened. Recent archaeological evidence shows that the world has unfolded in a different and much more interesting way. For example marine archeologists at the now submerged 9,000 year old town of Atlit Yam off the coast of Israel have found a settled community that was growing grains and had a massive megalithic stone circle.
The stone circle of Atlit Yam contains seven 600-kilogram (1,320 lb) megaliths and is 10 meters (45 ft) under the sea. Underwater excavations have uncovered rectangular houses, arrowheads, sickle-blades and axes, 10 human skeletons in elaborate burials and many wooden artifacts to provide conclusive radiocarbon dates for this 9,000 year old town.
We can go back even further in time to another recent and amazing discovery, a 10,000 year old settled town at Banchory in Scotland. What makes this so very interesting is that it is twice as old as the 5,000 year old settlements of Mesopotamia, is in a geographically unrelated part of the world and most importantly a 10,000 year old calendar has been found at the site.
The calendar is a series of upright posts that are aligned with structures on the horizon to measure not only the monthly lunar cycles of the year but also the solar midwinter sunrise. This is a necessary requirement for all true calendars because if the solar year is not also taken into account the lunar year gradually becomes out of step with the time it takes for the earth to orbit the sun once, a solar year. So 10,000 years ago we have a settled community with a very advanced understanding of the movements of the earth, sun and moon and the knowledge that the lunar and solar calendars are different and that both need to be calculated and cross referenced to know the months and the true year. So they could know when to plant and when to harvest their crops. This was a high level of understanding demonstrated by a sophisticated settled community 5,000 years before what historians tell us is the rise of civilization in Mesopotamia. The next anomaly is so unexpected and amazing that it has actually caused human history to have to be rewritten. Historians have always had a consensus and taught that there was first simple nomadic hunter-gatherers who had a limited capacity to achieve anything of worth. It was only when people eventually began the domestication of the plants and animals and established settled agricultural communities that they could create any kind of monumental works. This birth of civilization was supposed to of only happened 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
In 1994 an archaeological excavation began at a place called Gobekli Tepe in southeast Turkey that has completely and dramatically turned the history of the world upside down. At Gobekli Tepe a massive temple complex that is 12,000 years old was discovered.
An aerial view of just one of the 20 great stone circles at Gobekli Tepe.
What makes it even more incredible is that it was constructed by nomadic hunter gatherers. There is no habitable dwellings, no settled agriculture, the only food remains are of butchered wild animals, and there is no domestication of animals, no planted crops. Just an incredible vast megalithic site built by nomadic hunter-gatherers.
Circles of massive T-shaped stone pillars were erected. More than 200 pillars in about 20 circles are currently known through geophysical surveys. Each pillar has a height of up to 6 m (20 ft) and a weight of up to 20 tons.
Many of the T-shaped stone pillars have animals carved into or onto them. The Lion, The Bull etc
In the middle of each circle are two massive T-shaped central stone pillars that are representative of people. With arms carved into the sides of the pillar that meet over the belly on the front of the pillar. What this means is that there was civilization when humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers. Our ancestors where capable of incredible achievements not only 12,000 years ago rather than 5,000 but when we were free and not in a fixed location and when we were still part of nature and not locked into an urban way of life. Gobekli Tepe was discovered intact because it was carefully and deliberately backfilled and concealed 10,000 years ago, the whole area was covered over so it just looked like any other hill. What has become clear is that the circle of giant megaliths is the circle of the night sky. What this means is that if you imagine you are standing on a hill late at night and you look at the sky whilst slowly turning in a complete circle keeping the horizon line just in view. Then the night sky is like a circle or a dome.
Today we look at the night sky and we say we see various star constellations that look like animals, Leo (The Lion), Taurus (The Bull) etc. So we are talking about astronomy symbolically using animals. At Gobekli Tepe some of the animals are different but the principle is the same. Gobekli Tepe is the ancients knowledge of astronomy carved in stone. The Lion, The Bull etc
The two separate central pillars facing one another at the center of each circle are a male and a female human, yin and yang, humans with their feet on the ground and their heads looking to the heavens. Only five percent of Gobekli Tepe has so far been excavated, who knows what other amazing anomalies will be revealed.
There is just one final anomaly to mention, it is so hard to comprehend, that it is easier to not think about it rather than consider its implications. In 1939 in a cave in Hohlenstein Mountain in Germany a Lion-headed mammoth ivory sculpture was discovered, it is 30 cm (12 inches) tall and it is over 40,000 years old.
It has the body of a human and its head is The Lion, it is the oldest known uncontested example of figurative art yet discovered. On its left arm can clearly be seen the first hexagram of the I Ching (a hexagram is one trigram placed on top of another). The name of this hexagram is Qian it means The Creative Force of Heaven. In the Chinese martial art of Pa Kua Chang (Bagua Zhang) there are eight animal forms and each one is associated with a trigram. The Lion form is associated with the trigram of the three yang lines which means Heaven. When this trigram is doubled in to the hexagram of Qian it means The Creative Force of Heaven. So it would appear that the Chinese martial art of Pa Kua Chang (Bagua Zhang) is a living expression of an ancient 40,000 year old shamanic system !
To find out more about Pa Kua Chang (Bagua Zhang) and Chinese martial arts please see my book The Training Manual of The College of Chinese Martial Arts.